Archive for June 14th, 2013

I had some fun back in April when I noted that politicians and staff on Capitol Hill were getting very agitated about having to be part of Obamacare.

Well, it seems that the way the law applies to them is so costly that many of them are thinking about calling it quits.

Here are some of the heartbreaking details from a story in Politico.

Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting. The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Gee, cry me a river. It’s about time that these pampered potentates on the Potomac learn how it feels to live in the real world.

The story warns of potential consequences.

If the issue isn’t resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform. …Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about Obamacare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.

Oh no, what a threat! The politicians who have spent years (or decades in many cases) imposing more taxes, more spending, and more regulation are saying they may leave? Well, my attitude is that we should tell them “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Maybe some new blood would lead to more rational – or at least less irrational – policy from Washington.

I’m heartbroken with grief for the unfortunate politicians

And it would be good to go back to the days when we had fewer congressional staffers. Maybe they wouldn’t dream up so many bad ideas if each office had only 3-4 staff.

Now that I’ve vented, I suppose it’s time to take a deep breath and acknowledge that the crowd on Capitol Hill has a legitimate gripe. Because of sloppy legislative language in Obamacare, it appears that the politicians and Hill staffers will have to pay for health insurance with after-tax dollars out of their own pockets.

That’s actually the way the health insurance market should work, but I doubt lawmakers and Hill staffers want to be the guinea pigs for the new system. They’d rather experiment on us.

But you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And if things get too hard for those blokes and gals, maybe the powers that be on the Hill can re-hire the grief counselors who were put on the payroll after the 2010 elections.

Not that they deserve any sympathy. As illustrated by this article, staffers and politicians quickly get hired as lobbyists, thus further contributing to the culture of corruption in Washington.

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I’ve done a handful of TV debates on Social Security, including the time I said that I wished Republicans had a secret plan for personal retirement accounts.

So I thought I was well prepared for this duel with a defender of the status quo on Fox Business Network.

I generally think the debate went well, but I confess that I didn’t have the updated numbers on the program’s long-run deficit.

I knew the long-run fiscal gap in past Trustees’ Reports was around $30 trillion, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t exaggerate. And since perhaps the economy’s modest improvement has impacted the long-run outlook, I decided to throw out a number that surely would be on the low side.

So I said $20 trillion.

Well, nobody can accuse me of exaggeration. Here’s a chart showing the program’s dismal long-run deficit, which is compiled from Table VI.F9 and Table V.B1 of the recently released Trustees Report. If you add up the annual deficits, you get $36 trillion. And that’s in today’s dollars!

Social Security Deficit

So I made a $16 trillion mistake. That’s a big number even by Washington standards.

But it doesn’t really matter since everything I said about policy was correct, regardless of whether the long-run deficit was $5 trillion, $50 trillion, or somewhere in between.

If you want to know more about right way to do Social Security reform, click here to see my video on personal retirement accounts.

And if you want to learn more about the wrong way to deal with the program’s huge long-run fiscal gap, click here to get the sobering details on the big tax increase that both President Obama and my debating opponent would like to impose.

P.S. One encouraging footnote is that personal retirement accounts continue to garner good support in public opinion polls. And with the very good results we’re seeing from nations such as Australia and Chile, I’m cautiously optimistic that reform can happen in America.

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